The packed cruise ship is a terrific nesting ground for a Lord and Lady of the Wamphyri on the run from E-Branch and the new Necroscope, Jake Cutter. By the time the ship is reported missing, the few beings still living on board will no longer be human . . . and the Wamphyri will be long fled to their next conquest.
Korath, the vampire who lurks in Jake Cutter's mind, is determined to gain control of Jake's life, and Jake is equally determined not to let him have it. But to win this struggle Jake must confide in Ben Trask-and Trask, the head of E-Branch, is likely to want Jake dead the minute he learns of Jake's intrusive passenger!
The spore garden planted under London by the third Wamphyri, Lord Swartz, is bearing bitter fruit indeed as a mysterious sleeping sickness-with a vampiric taint-slowly spreads among the population of Great Britain.
E-Branch action teams have more on their plates than they can handle. They must locate terrorists who threaten the world with nuclear homicide; permanently close the Gate between the Wamphyri world and Earth; analyze the spore plague; and locate and destroy the three Wamphyri.
In Brian Lumley's Necroscope: Avengers, even the powers of Harry Keogh, the original Necroscope, summoned from the Great Beyond via the combined powers of E-Branch's strongest agents, may not be enough to defeat the monsters who have brought Earth to the brink of total destruction.
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Brian Lumley is the author of the bestselling Necroscope series of vampire novels. The first Necroscope, Harry Keogh, also appears in a collection of Lumley's short fiction, Harry Keogh and Other Weird Heroes, along Titus Crow and Henri Laurent de Marigny, from Titus Crow, Volumes One, Two, and Three, and David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer, from the Dreamlands series.
An acknowledged master of Lovecraft-style horror, Brian Lumley has won the British Fantasy Award and been named a Grand Master of Horror. His works have been published in more than a dozen countries and have inspired comic books, role-playing games, and sculpture, and been adapted for television.
When not writing, Lumley can often be found spear-fishing in the Greek islands, gambling in Las Vegas, or attending a convention somewhere in the US. Lumley and his wife live in England.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE SUN, THE SEA, AND THE DRIFTING DOOM
At some 35,000 tons and just over 700 feet from stem to stern, the Evening Starwas a Mediterranean cruise ship without peer. Her eight public decks were all served by elevators, and with her casino, gymnasium, outdoor pools, bars, gift shops, sports deck--all the usual amenities--the Starwas the pride of her line. Of an evening, her 1,400-plus passengers could choose to relax in the Moulin Rouge lounge or the All That Jazz show bar, dance the night away in the Sierra Ballroom, or simply sit and be serenaded, watching the sunset from the panoramic sundeck.
This being the Star‘s last voyage of the season, however, last night had been a little different. A mid-cruise “extravaganza,“ the extra glitz of its shows and its grand finale--a fireworks display from the stern, lighting the Aegean sky with dazzling spirals and brilliant, thunderclap bomb-bursts--had been one of the highlights of the voyage; the locals ashore in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos had enjoyed it as much as the passengers aboard. Add to this cuisine straight out of a gourmet’s dream of paradise, and it was easy to see why the onboard partying had gone on and on through the night, and why the run on the champagne locker had seemed unending...
But all good things do come to an end.
Now...it was early morning of a Monday in October, and in the galley breakfast was being prepared for those who still had the stomach for yet more food, while those who didn’t slept off their excesses. A few younger passengers were up and about, making the most of the pools while yet they had them to themselves, and as if emulating their energy a pod of dolphins, like so many silver minisubmarines, played chicken on the bow wave, crisscrossing the prow just beneath a sparkling surface that was so flat calm it might well be a horizon-spanning plate of diamond-etched glass. While the sun had risen no more than half an hour ago, already the deck rails were warm from its rays.
So thought Purser Bill Galliard where he strolled the main deck for’ard, having risen early to prepare the shore excursion roster for the Star‘s midday visit to the picturesque island of Límnos Thus far the cruise had gone precisely to plan, without a hitch, and Galliard had wanted to do his bit to ensure things stayed that way. Now that he’d finished with the Limnos documentation, he could take it easy for an hour or so, at least until the bulk of the passengers were astir and those who desired to go ashore were readying themselves for terra firma.
Now in the very prow of the ship, forty feet above and forward of the spot where the knifelike stem sliced the water, he leaned on the deck rail and looked out across the vast curve of the ocean. No land in sight, but Galliard came from a long line of deckhands; he knew how quickly land masses could take shape on the horizon, especially in the Aegean, looming up as if from nowhere into cloud-capped mountain ranges. And with the cooling breeze of the vessel’s forward motion in his face, and the hiss of parted waters in his ears, he reflected on the trip so far.
Most of the passengers were middle-aged, comfortably well-to-do, generally easygoing Brits, and the crew was composed of a British captain, officers and senior stewards, supported by a largely Greek Cypriot body of deckhands, engineers, chefs, and an “international” lineup of entertainers. The passengers had flown out from England to Cyprus, joining the cruise in Limassol. After a week of sailing they would return to Cyprus before flying home.
Sailing from Limassol on Thursday evening, the Evening Starhad cruised all day Friday, providing an ideal opportunity for the passengers to get to know the vessel and fellow holidaymakers. Saturday it had been “all ashore who’s going ashore” in Vólos on the Greek mainland, and Purser Bill had taken time out to visit friends in their villa at the foot of Mount Pelion, also to pick up some gifts in Vólos’s bustling bazaar for the folks back home. Sunday they’d cruised to Lesbos and Mytilene, where the sightseers had gone ashore again, and last night had been the food and fireworks fest.
That brought Galliard up to date. The next port of call in some four hours’ time would be Límnos’s new deep-water harbour, and tomorrow they’d be through the Dardanelles on their way to Istanbul. But that was to look too far ahead, and cruises such as this were best taken one day at a time.
As he thought these things through, Galliard had been idly scanning the forward horizon. A moment ago--if only for a moment--he’d caught sight of something in direct line ahead. The fact hadn’t made a great impact on him; shipping of one sort or another can be found any time in Mediterranean waters, and just about anywhere. Anyway, it had been a flash of white on a glittering surface...maybe a dolphin had leaped clear of the water and the splashdown had caught his eye. But--
Purser Galliard stepped to one of two telescopes mounted on the rail and focussed ahead. For a while there was nothing, but the...now what was that? A Greek caïque? Just sitting there, all these miles from the nearest island? Nothing peculiar about the boat itself; the islands were full of them--like gondolas in Venice--but they usually stuck pretty close to shore. This one looked becalmed, and it simply shouldn’t be here.
The canopied boat was maybe three-quarters of a mile ahead--but dead ahead--and it definitely wasn’t moving!
Galliard took out his on-board communicator and pressed 1 for the bridge three decks higher. His call sign was recognized, and a voice answered, “Bridge. What can we do for you, Purser Bill?” It was Captain Geoff Anderson, informal as ever.
“You might try swinging her a tad to port and calling full stop on all engines,“ Galliard told him at once. “We’re about a minute and a half from running someone down!”
“Wait,“ came the terse answer, and ten seconds later: “Well done, Purser Bill. We would have seen and cleared her okay, but if they need help we’d have had to slow down and come about. So you’ve saved us some time and a little embarrassment, possibly. Now for your trouble you can arm yourself with a hailer and get down starboard onto B deck, okay?”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n,“ Galliard answered with a grin, heading at the double for his office amidships. After only a few paces, he was gratified to feel the gentle shudder of a sudden deceleration, the barely noticeable shifting underfoot as the Starbegan veering a few degrees to port...
* * *
From just below the surface of B deck (the vessel’s basement) a section of the hull had been rotated outwards to form stairs. And from the bottom step, Purser Bill Galliard threw out a line to the tattered-looking man in the shade of the caïque’s canopy. Accompanied by three stewards and a deckhand, Galliard watched as the figure of the man in the caïque made fast the line, then began to haul his boat in alongside.
“That’s okay,“ Galliard called out. “I’ll do that. You just sit tight.”
“Water,“ the shaded, crumpled-seeming man answered him, his voice a dry croak. “The lady and I...we’re burning up.”
A lady? That must be the second figure, lying supine between the thwarts. Even as Galliard drew the caïque alongside, he saw her jewel-green eyes flicker open to fix his own, in the moment before a luminous glow suffused her face, making it indistinct. And:
God, she’s beautiful! he thought...before wondering where that idea had come from, since as yet she was barely visible in the shade of the boat’s canopy, which made a jet-black contrast with the blinding sunlight.
“Shade,“ said the gaunt, ragged figure of the man, standing hunched under the canopy. “The sun. We have...suffered!”
“We have juice,“ said Galliard, passing a pitcher down. “Sip a little. It will ease your throats, give you strength. But how long have you been out here?”
“Too long,“ said the other, sipping and passing the pitcher to the woman, then reaching out a hand to Galliard. “Help me to get her up there.”
The purser took his hand, and felt its chill. Strange, on a day as hot as this to feel a hand so cold. Stranger by far that the hand seemed to smoke in the sunlight! But Galliard was much too busy, too concerned, to wonder about the apparent contradictions here. The woman was heavily muffled; wrapped head to toe, she seemed almost mummified as she struggled to her feet, tottering where she emerged into the light. Galliard leaned forward, held to the rail with one hand and caught her round her slender waist with the other. She stepped--was lifted up--from the boat to the stairs, and her man-friend close behind, apparently eager to enter into the shade of the ship.
“But what on earth happened here?” Galliard enquired, as he and the stewards assisted the pair up into the ship and towards the elevators, and the deckhand left to go about his business. “I mean, that you got into trouble, adrift way out here?”
“We ran out of fuel,“ said the man, throwing off the jacket he’d been using to cover his head. “We were taken by an unusual tide off Krassos. We used up our fuel trying to get back to the island. A little jaunt turned into a nightmare.”
His story sounded incredible: that even in this mad El Niño summer they’d been lost in the Aegean--adrift and going unnoticed through all the regular shipping routes--long enough to have become so dehydrated and so badly burned. But on the other hand it must be true, for the condition of the pair admitted of no other explan...
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